Russian president bought a Tel Aviv flat for Mina Yuditskaya Berliner after the two reunited in 2005
In the late 1990s, Mina Yuditskaya Berliner recognized a familiar face on the screen of her television set in Israel.
It was her former student Vladimir, now on television for becoming head of Russia’s FSB security apparatus.
Before immigrating to Israel in 1973, Yuditskaya Berliner, now 93, was Vladimir Putin’s German teacher at St. Petersburg’s High School 281, she recently told the Israeli news site Ynet.
Putin, she revealed, even bought her the small Tel Aviv apartment where she now lives.
According to the Ynet article, Putin and his teacher were reunited in 2005, when the Russian president visited Israel. She had asked the Russian embassy whether she could attend a reception in Putin’s honor.
She joined World War II veterans for their meeting with Putin in Jerusalem, but afterwards he invited her to have tea with him in private.
“As we were walking to have tea, he told me: ‘You see, I’m bald now’,” she told Ynet. “I replied: ‘I can see that.’” At the reception, Putin introduced her to then Israeli president Moshe Katzav.
Shortly after the meeting, Yuditskaya Berliner, who is a widow, began receiving gifts: A watch and Putin’s autographed 2000 biography. Shortly after that, an employee of the Russian government showed up at her doorstep and took her to see some apartments in the center of Tel Aviv, she told Ynet.
“I told him all I needed was a flat that would be near the bus station, the market and to kuppat holim,” she told Ynet, using the Hebrew term for a health maintenance organization. “It all happened fast from there on; a few months later the movers came to my [rented] apartment in Florentine [in southern Tel Aviv], packed everything up and moved me,” she said.
She described Putin as a diligent student who, despite skipping classes to attend wrestling matches and practice, had a good command of the material taught to him by Yuditskaya Berliner.
Putin often spoke admiringly of his Jewish wrestling coach, Anatoly Rakhlin. At Rakhlin’s funeral last year, Putin, reportedly overcome by emotion, ditched his security detail and went on a short, solitary walk.
And in the biography he gave Yuditskaya Berliner, he recalled with affection his relationship with a Jewish family that lived in his apartment block and took care of him while his parents worked.
These encounters and relationships with Russian Jews helped shape a special appreciation in Putin for Jewish people, according to Mikhail Chlenov, secretary general of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress. This appreciation and experience, he said, may well have a role in Putin’s current attitudes toward Russian Jewry, which critics and supporters alike describe as friendly.
Approached by Ynet, Putin’s office confirmed that Yuditskaya Berliner was the Russian president’s teacher and that the two saw each other in Israel, but declined to comment on other details, citing privacy issues. The question is, did the two speak in Russian or was Putin able to remember some of the German Berliner taught him?http://www.timesofisrael.com/when-putin-met-his-jewish-german-teacher-in-israel/
(JTA) — When Mina Yuditskaya describes Vladimir Putin, circa 1969, and Vladmir Putin, circa 2005, it’s as if she’s talking about two different people.
One is a quiet, studious boy, clearly smart and diligent, but not loud or remarkable in any way.
The other is the charismatic leader of Russia, a man able to invite her for tea and cakes during a ceremony at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, then to buy her an apartment in central Tel Aviv.
Yuditskaya, 93, has been thrust into the spotlight in Israel as her former pupil has annexed Crimea in one of Europe’s tensest conflicts since the Cold War. Sitting in the living room of the apartment Putin gave her, a 10-minute walk from the beach, she stops our conversation as a segment featuring her — filmed that morning — airs on Israel’s Russian TV channel.
Yuditskaya taught Putin German when he was a 17-year-old student in a St. Petersburg high school. She moved to Israel several years later, and now he’s one of the world’s most powerful men.
The teenage Putin skipped homework assignments to attend judo practice, she remembers, though she knows he liked her class: She once caught him writing German sentences in his chemistry notebook.
“He was like everyone else,” she said. “He was serious. He wouldn’t mess around. He would do what I said. He was quiet a lot and thought a lot. He did everything well.”
Yuditskaya was much more eager to discuss their meeting nine years ago, when Putin visited Jerusalem to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. Russian government officials knew Yuditskaya lived in Tel Aviv, and Putin invited her to meet him at the King David. What followed, she recalls, was a warm and lighthearted conversation.
“He said, ‘Israel is very good but very hot,’” she recounted. “I said, ‘How do you remember me?’ I thought he’d say I was beautiful, but he said I was serious.”
She noticed that despite the ascent to power, there was one thing that hadn’t changed about Putin: he remained a good listener. During most of the conversation, she talked about ideas, philosophy and history, while he sat, nodded and asked questions. As they parted, Putin gave her a watch commemorating the war’s 60th anniversary.
The meeting was pleasant, Yuditskaya said, but it also left her feeling sad, realizing how much time had passed, even though the intervening years had been good to Putin.
“Time does bad things,” she said. “He was a kid. Now he’s big. I was a young teacher. Now I am old. I didn’t think I was seeing a president. I thought, it’s tough to see a kid who now is an old man, and bald.”
Yuditskaya wouldn’t comment on Putin’s politics — in Crimea or elsewhere. She seemed more interested in the man than the politician, and looking back on the day they met in Jerusalem, Yuditskaya thinks of Putin as the student of whom she’s most proud.
“Why is he important to me?” she asked. “He remembers me.”